The best way to find out what’s wrong with a cheap used car is to drive it for a while. The quirks and defects the seller isn’t going to tell you about aren’t going to show up on the test drive, you only find those out after you’ve lived with the machine. Bought it in the summer? It might not start in the cold. Bought it in the winter? The AC has long been shot. Time exposes information. The same goes for our businesses, markets, and all sorts of real life. If we want to find out what’s breakable, just add time and stress.
Without an upfront investment, we don’t have the opportunity to live with used cars let alone businesses, markets, etc. If we have to invest first, our best defense against lemons is a combination of quality and robustness. Quality might be a trustworthy brand or a professionals appraisal. Robustness might cover the “just in case” scenarios with alternate options and insurances.
Quality and robustness also show up in the experience of those who hire us. We should put ourselves in our client’s shoes and think about how they’re gauging the quality of the experience, especially when things are going wrong. Is the plan really robust? Is the brand really trustworthy? How is it being signaled? What are the subtle and not so subtle reminders we are sending out?
Things are going to play out. Time is going to unfold. Businesses will live and die, markets will rise and fall, and yes, that new car will one day be used and eventually become scrap. We survive over time by focusing on quality and robustness. We thrive in our businesses by offering high-quality products and services with flexible plans and options dependent on whatever surprises time throws in our way. We don’t have to know what comes next to plan for quality and robustness. It’s a conversation we can start having today.